Friday, April 21, 2017

What well known authors wrote about Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla

Apart from being a progressive and sagacious ruler, Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla was a gracious host and one of the most famous racehorse owners of his time. Well known writers penned paeans about him which told many a tale about this multi-faceted personality.

Best-selling romantic novelist Barbara Cartland wrote in her classic memoir of the 1920s ‘We Danced All Night’ after the Maharaja had won the Irish Derby in 1926 when his horse Embargo took the honours:

“One very popular person at the Café de Paris and everywhere he went was the Maharajah of Rajpipla, who was always known as “Pip”. In England he was democratic, unassuming and increasingly merry, In India he was very much the dignified ruler over millions of his people who revered him.

Over here Pip won the Irish Derby and the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, and his Sunday afternoon parties at his house at Old Windsor were legendary.

In the East, Pip entertained in his enormous palace those who enjoyed big game hunting, like the Duke of Sutherland, polo players and anyone who wanted to gape at his state army, vast fleet of motor-cars and the royal ceremonial by which he was surrounded.”

The suave ruler’s friend Vivian Charles Buckley, authored ‘The Good Life: Between the Two World Wars with a Candid Camera’ and ‘Good times: At home and abroad between the wars’, besides his autobiography ‘Draw back the curtains’. He wrote an article entitled ‘Rajpipla At Home: Princely Hospitality of the Man Who Won the Derby’ in the Sunday Graphic and Sunday News six days after Maharaja Vijaysinhji’s colt Windsor Lad triumphed in the Epsom Derby of 1934:

"As a personal friend of the owner of Windsor Lad, the Derby winner, I can say none more deserved to win. He is the kindest, simplest and most hospitable person one could wish to meet.

Whether at Windsor, where he owns an old manor house and stays each year for the summer, or in his State in India with its 250,000 population over which he rules, or at his residence in Bombay, he always has a smiling welcome for his many friends.

When the Maharajah of Rajpipla says, 'Come out to India and stay with me,' he means it – not like many people who have a habit of issuing invitations which are not really meant. When I visited him in India it was characteristic that he should send a special railway carriage for my use, attached to the local train at the border station of Ankleshwar. It was magnificent looking, painted white and furnished as a sitting room, with a small kitchen adjoining in case the visitor should want anything to eat on the journey, although only a few hours to the picturesque capital town of Rajpipla.

An A.D.C. meets the train and escorts the visitor, in a car driven by one of the Palace chauffeurs in a smart uniform and turban, to the large white guest house. This is situated near the Palace and surrounded by tall palm trees. At night one can hear the call of wild beasts in the neighbouring jungle.

The Maharajah is always arranging things for the entertainment of his guests. Tiger shoots, tennis picnics, riding his polo ponies before breakfast, or viewing the up-to-date public buildings which are all painted grey - soft to the eyes in the brilliant sun. This kindly host is almost as fond of polo as racing, and every evening in India he either plays himself or watches a game from the terrace of his private gymkhana club with his relations, staff and guests. A military band plays by the side of the ground, and the sound of galloping hoofs may be heard till well after dusk - when the moon rises a golden crescent behind the goalposts."

This offered a delightful glimpse into the unforgettable era between the two world wars. Much changed thereafter, and indeed an entire lifestyle disappeared forever.